Skip to main content

Full text of "The Gay Genius"

See other formats

EMPRESS'S FAVOURITE                        235

washed up to his knees.  At a "small bath" he used twenty-four gallons

C£ water and was attended by five or six servants, while at a "big bath"
e used also twenty-four gallons, but was served by eight or nine
Attendants. At this "big bath" he used medicated ointment, and had
his clothes perfumed on a wire netting placed over slowly burning rare
incense. He wrote to Su Tungpo saying that this system of regular
baths did him a lot of good, and Su Tungpo replied: "I am pleased
to hear this, but I also suggest two ingredients which can further
increase your happiness, namely, thrift and compassion."

There are decided social and material advantages in being a high
official. In those days, the simple choice for the educated class was
between being an official and obscurity—the latter usually meant
'poverty. One could achieve lasting fame, of course, by devotion to
scholarship; but to many, immortal fame, even if one could be sure
of it, was poor consolation for a hungry stomach. In Su Tungpo's
time there was a satire on scholars who, after passing the examinations
and accepting an office, continually protested that they were doing so
as a personal sacrifice for the country. The story was as follows:

Once upon a time there was a poor scholar who was so poor that
he had no money to buy bread. He was famished, and thought of a
way to get some bread to eat. He went to the outside of a bakery shop
apd started to run away in horror, but failed to attract any attention,
^hen he went on to another bakery where stood a big crowd in the
street. Upon catching sight of the buns, he gave out a loud scream,
ran away in fright and then fell upon the ground. The crowd gathered
atound him and asked him what he was frightened of. "Those buns!"
the scholar replied. Everybody laughed; they had never heard,of sucn
a thing. Incredulous, the owner of the bakery shop wanted to test him.
He induced the scholar to go into a room where he had placed a big
pile of buns, and watched him from a keyhole. Happy at the success
of his stratagem, the scholar dug into the pile with both hands and
began to gorge himself. Greatly touched, the baker broke into the
room and said kindly to him: "Is there anything else you are afraid

"I am now afraid of a really good cup of hot tea," replied the scholar.

One day the two sons-in-law of Han Wei, belonging to the great,
rich and powerful family which produced several premiers, came to
see Su Tungpo, and he asked them how their father-in-law was

"He is doing very well," replied one of the young men. "He tells
us that he has now reached old age, and that he is going to enjoy his
remaining years with music, wine, and women; otherwise, he wouldn't
know how to pass his days."